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04 April 2013


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William R. Cumming

MSM indicating Administration now backing off after its "show of force" as possibly aggravating the situation.

Should this issue be left to Japan, S. Korea and China?

With N.Korea's announcement of Armistice being ended then technically the US is in what position under its Treaty with S. Korea since a STATE of WAR was never declared back in 1950?

Neil Richardson


I'd refrain from putting too much weight on MSM on its coverage of the peninsula. A few days ago somebody told me that CNN had spent two days running a story on the DPRK's "threat" against Austin, TX from a photo taken of Kim Jung-Un and a few of his generals (the idiocy of a straight line on a Mercator projection tells me all one needs to know about that threat). I guess Kim must've been inconvenienced by DoS attacks which he probably assumed originated from Lackland AFB in San Antonio.

As for the Mutual Defense Treaty:

"neither party is obligated, under Article III of the above Treaty, to come to the aid of the other except in case of an external armed attack against such party; nor shall anything in the present Treaty be construed as requiring the United States to give assistance to Korea except in the event of an armed attack against territory which has been recognized by the United States as lawfully brought under the administrative control of the Republic of Korea. "

For obvious reasons "lawfully brought under the administrative control" raise questions about the NLL, but I doubt it's going to be a sticking point at this juncture.

Babak Makkinejad

There is a series of photographs taken from Yongbyon site at FP:


Were there promises made to North Korea for disabling that site that were later not fulfilled?

Do you know?


What developing Korean situation? The Chinese told Kim Jung-un to make some bellicose noises against the Americans to distract them from Syria but to do nothing more, which he did. The Americans took the bait and Kim Jung-un will waggle his finger at the Americans every few weeks for the next six months. Meanwhile, al-Assad gets to deal with the terrorists with less outside interference. A really good result for everyone except the theocratic despots in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, a few Israeli-first neo-cons in Washington and our dead-tossers-walking David Cameron and Gideon.

William R. Cumming

David Halberstam's book "The Coldest Winter" best book on Korean War for me.
And Don Oberdorfer's book "The Two Koreas" best overall modern history. I believe his book was the first to recognize that S.Korea was a dictatorship until 1992 and supported by US in that political system.

Neil Richardson

Dear Babak:

"Were there promises made to North Korea for disabling that site that were later not fulfilled?"

None that I'm aware of. Victor Cha who was Christopher Hill's deputy in the 6 Party talks (He was the NSC Asian Affairs director in the GWB admin.) said that the precondition to the resumption of the 6 party talks in 2007 was the return of the Banco Delta Asia funds. After some difficulties (mainly because no one in finance wanted to touch it), the United States complied by transferring them through FRBNY. Cha and later Hill did reveal (to the extent they were able) that the United States probed aggressively for a deal. From their comments (and Hagel and Kerry's comments two days ago seem to confirm that it's still an offer on the table) the United States was willing to offer a lot of economic inducements, a written assurance of non-aggression and a track toward diplomatic normalization if the DPRK would give up its nuclear weapons. There probably were minor inducements such as taking the DPRK off the State Sponsors of Terrorism list in 2008 for handing over documents and disabling the Yongbyon facility. Remember that given the DPRK's history, even the smallest agreements have to be tit-for-tat in terms of compliance. Well six months later they decided to test Bright Star 2 which reset the whole process. (It ended in a rather spectacular failure) They kicked out the inspectors after a UN resolution, and we've been in an impasse ever since.

The big intervening "variable" (I don't want to put too much weight on this yet) was the Lee Myung-Bak administration which decided to decrease the aid to north. It was recently revealed that the DPRK had demanded "up front" money before a summit meeting between Lee and Kim Jong-Il. After they were rebuffed, the KPA shelled Yeunpyeungdo. Granted it's still a post hoc explanation, but given the DPRK's past history I'm inclined to accept it.

Neil Richardson


The Israelis should've paid off the DPRK back in 1993. They "missed it by that much" as they should've upped the offer from USD 1bn. They could've always asked the United States to reimburse their expenses later.

Neil Richardson


If you're interested in Korean War, I'd strongly recommend Allan Millett's _The War for Korea_. He's currently working on the final volume, but the first two have been absolute tour de force. Most earlier works had relied on mainly US sources which was problematic. As for Oberdorfer's book, it's a widely accepted work, but there were plenty of books written prior 1995 that had accurately portrayed the South Korean political system. Col. Fehrenbach's _This Kind of War_ which was written in 1960 accurately described the Rhee regime. In the 1970s there was enough coverage of the dictatorship here in the US especially during the Koreagate hearings and especially in the Carter years.

It's rather ironic that back in 1975-1976, there was a nation-wide curfew in Korea as Park had started to lose control. And back then only USFK, ROKA and ROK police (along with domestic KCIA types) were allowed outside in those hours. Today, USFK is again being collectively punished for their "unruly" behavior with 1-5am curfew. Now we used to have curfews for a few weeks way back, but after 2001 USFK had been under it in one form or another until 2010. After a short reprieve, a few screwups this year (One idiot NCO got shot by Seoul police after shooting a bb gun from a car last month) seemed to have finally pushed Gen. Thurman over the edge.



Is this Thurman related to the other two? I know he can't be a son of wither, unless it was by artificial insemination. pl

Mark Logan


Under this smoke screen of bluster and posturing, NK had a major government meeting in which they declared that nuclear weapons are now the bedrock of their defense. I'm taking that as meaning they are no longer going to even pretend to negotiate on that point with anybody anymore.

They also appointed a new economic minister, and here is a quote that indicates their intention is to sell the idea of a nuclear arsenal (whether they have one or not) to their people, so they can cut back on their ruinously expensive and ultimately useless military machine.



"The decision means North Korea believes it can rebuild the economy while not neglecting its military because it now has nuclear and long-range missile capabilities, said analyst Cheong Seong-jang at South Korea’s Sejong Institute. “It’s like chasing two hares at once,” he said."

The grand strategy of the reign of Kim The III? Re-deploying assets toward improving the lot of the average peasant in order to clear a path for eventually re-entering the world. The People must have feelings of genuine gratitude for this government, due to the extreme danger of a fully informed NK population stringing us all up like so many Mussolini's. Also, the people must be convinced they are safe from outside threats as the military is "weakened", therefore we will become a "nuclear power".

Neil Richardson

Dear Col. Lang:

I'm pretty certain he's not. IIRC he had a troop in 11ACR back in 1986

William R. Cumming

Thanks Neil! Assume the same Alan Millett that wrote the outstanding study of various war production efforts of the combatants in WWII. And still the best summary of those efforts.


TX from a photo taken of Kim Jung-Un and a few of his generals (the idiocy of a straight line on a Mercator projection tells me all one needs to know about that threat)

What threat? There never was a threat. Kim Jong-un was taking the piss. They drew a few lines on a piece of paper, added a few names and distances (no doubt obtained using the ruler tool on Google Maps) and this became a serious threat? Kim Jung-un will go laughing to his grave in fifty odd years thinking how easy it was to panic certain influential nationals of the most powerful country in the world and how CNN shat in their pants. The man or his scriptwriters should get a gig on Comedy Central.

Clifford Kiracofe


On an earlier thread, I believe you raised the issue of the neutralization of Korea as part of some regional re-arrangment.

That got me to thinking about the overall question of the reunification of Korea and how that could be done. We have the example of the reunification of Germany.

So would reunification depend on some sort of China-South Korea deal in which reunification would take place with the understanding that the resulting Korea would be neutral as say Austria was in the Cold War?

Would the little leader's brother waiting in the wings in China be part of such a deal? Say after removal of the little leader by the NKorean military?

What sort of scenarios might we consider?

Clifford Kiracofe


FYI, Here in Lexington, the Marshall Foundation is working on Gen. Marshall's Korean War era papers which may be of interest when published. ck

William R. Cumming

Today's WAPO has an article purporting to describe N. Korean capabilities in the context of various threats. Perhaps I have this wrong.

But noting the large Korean American population in several sensitive location, and having met a former KCIA person in previous years, is there a domestic threat from N.Korean sleepers or followers in the USA now?



There is a story in the press today that the PDRK government has notified Britain and Russia that it wll not be able to protect their embassies after the 12th of April. pl

Clifford Kiracofe

Here is an opinion piece from an analyst at Royal United Services Institute, London:


As to the "regime collapse" scenario, could not China and South Korea work out an arrangement on this with a view to reunification and neutralization of Korea?

What are some possible realistic diplomatic solutions to this ever present mess and threat?

Or is preventive war, as is being called for in Congress now, and vaporizing Pyongyang a possibility? Or war initiated by North Korea leading to same?

What about South Korea opting for its own nuclear deterrent? Would North Korea's patrons in Beijing welcome this?

Neil Richardson

Dear Prof. Kiracofe:

"So would reunification depend on some sort of China-South Korea deal in which reunification would take place with the understanding that the resulting Korea would be neutral as say Austria was in the Cold War?"

Yes. That would be my preference in the long run. As of today, there is an overwhelming support among the South Koreans to remain allied to the United States in the event of reunification. That will most likely change in the years ahead as older generations with even vague memory of the war pass away.

"Would the little leader's brother waiting in the wings in China be part of such a deal? Say after removal of the little leader by the NKorean military? What sort of scenarios might we consider?"

Kim Jong-Nam would be the PRC leadership's choice, but if there's a coup I'm not certain if potential conspirators would want him back. He wasn't well respected according to both Hwang Jang-Yeup and Fujimoto Kenji (AFAIK he was the first one who'd predicted that Kim Jong-Il would pick Jong-Un and pass his two elder brothers).

It seems whenever the United States would try to approach the PRC to discuss possibility of post-Kim regime (including contingencies), we were brushed aside. It makes sense as they probably wouldn't trust us to safeguard such politically sensitive information (and we probably wouldn't trust the South Koreans either). Last month Kissinger said that the Chinese finally might be ready to have "such conversation." This was preceded by Deng Yuwen's piece in the Financial Times in February. The problem though is that the PRC leadership is likely having their own internal debate on this issue. Whoever that gave Deng his blessing probably wasn't powerful enough to protect him as he was suspended last week.


When Xi Jinping was the vice-premier, he took what some in the west had called his "debutante tour" in 2009 when he visited Latin America. He made a comment that seemed very poignant to me at the time. He said that the PRC leadership of his generation came of age during the Cultural Revolution. He made it fairly clear that they preferred stability above all. That's why I think the PRC would move very slowly on the DPRK issue as they have a lot to lose if a general war break out or the regime suddenly implodes.

Neil Richardson

(I'll split my reply)

Assuming that the PRC leadership has resolved their differences and would prefer a regime change, I would consider these two scenarios to start (there are so many possible variations but I think these would be useful to get a discussion started):

First, if the Kims were suddenly removed by a group who seize Pyongyang but fail to extend control to provinces, then anything is possible. Hopefully district commanders who could exercise sufficient control in Hamkyungbukdo and Pyonganbukdo would emerge. That might be wishful thinking IMHO.

Second, if such a group with prior contact with the PRC were to successfully remove the Kims, the PLA in the Shenyang region could seize and maintain control in such locations as Yongbyon, Musudan-ri, etc. As I mentioned earlier in another thread, the PLA supposedly has a contingency called the Chick Plan according Park Chae-Seo (a convicted NK spy). The demarcation of their advance would be Nampo-Wonsan axis which would include Pyongyang. I assume this is one of many contingencies they've considered. If this were to take place my hope is the United States would exercise extreme caution regardless of understandable wishes of some in the ROK government to put their people north of DMZ. If the PLA in combination with the surviving DPRK regime were to successfully gain control of WMD, ballistic missiles, research facilities, nuclear facilities, I believe the United States should count our blessings and negotiate a withdrawal from the peninsula as the PLA returns north of the Yalu and Tumen (I assume the offer of economic aid, investment and normalization would still be on the table).

The difficulties are boundless with the second scenario as well. First, if a conspiracy is well coordinated to quickly seize control outside of Pyongyang, the greater the likelihood of detection by the current DPRK regime. Whenever the PLA mobilizes its forces north of the DPRK border, I'd have to assume the DPRK would have a high probability of detection as there are so many ethnic Koreans in Shenyang. And I have to question how willing the PRC leadership would be in undertaking such a high risk operation (from their POV). My guess is they'd only act if there were very reliable information that the Kims would do something really idiotic such as a general invasion or firing a missile at countervalue targets in ROK or Japan.

Neil Richardson

Dear Col. Lang:
"There is a story in the press today that the PDRK government has notified Britain and Russia that it wll not be able to protect their embassies after the 12th of April."

If I had to put down a marker, I'd say 98% it is in reaction to western coverages of the current situation (esp. CNN whose headline editor should be censured). At some point I'll try to track down the media headlines and official DPRK responses. About ten days ago, there were stories on South Korean reactions to the current DPRK rhetoric. CNN and others had focused on the status of the Kaesong complex. Since the DPRK had not done anything to restrict the movements of South Korean personnel, many in ROK didn't expect anything out of ordinary despite the harshness of the rhetoric. Five days later, the DPRK refused to allow South Korean personnel into the Kaesong. At the same time they still allowed the complex to operate. (It's a cash cow from their POV) Understandably South Korean firms fear seizure of their assets and have asked their people to remain on site. The DPRK has said that ROK personnel were free to leave at any time and some have done so.

I haven't looked at recent coverages, but my expectation is that as the spring training cycle of CFC winds down, the DPRK would "provoke" and claim victory. I expect they'll test Musudan or KN-08 near the conclusion the current cycle. When USFK augmentation force leaves the region (so the DPRK leadership usually thinks), Kim could claim victory for domestic consumption.

Neil Richardson


I posted this four years ago and I tend to agree with your analysis.




We will see. I have a bad feeling about this. pl

Babak Makkinejad

South Koreans consider themselves to be the same people as the North Koreans.

They blame the great powers for the partition of Korea.

If they could unify with North Korea on their terms - then they would expect to be an industrialized nuclear-armed power; profoundly changing the status of Korea in over 1500 years.

But they (the South Koreans) also recognize that it is a dream not to be realized due to the objections of great powers as well as the expected cost of unification with North Korea.

I do personally do not expect China to sacrifice North Korea.

Kyle Pearson

I can't read Korean, so i can't say one way or the other.

OTOH, i know for a fact that gross mistranslations of official Chinese government statements are commonplace amongst the media, and that this was also a problem during the Iraq war. To this day, i still don't feel i've ever gotten a straight answer on what the difference between "Al Qaeda" and "The Foundation [that Defends] Wahabbi Faith" is.

Curious to hear what y'all make of this:

"...Russian media reported that a faulty translation might have been to blame for this apparent uptick in bellicose rhetoric.

The North Korean original statement apparently stressed that the country would act “in accordance with wartime laws” if attacked, and that “from that time, North-South relations will enter a state of war.”"


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